International Women's Day in Hungary


March 8 marked International Women's Day around the world. In Hungary, it is common for women to receive flowers from husbands, partners and male colleagues. But in much of Central Europe, Women's Day used to be a kind of "official" celebration under the old socialist regime and so today many people find it hard to celebrate spontaneously.

We spoke to Gyorgyi Toth from an organization which helps battered women - known as NANE, Women for Women and Against Violence:

"International Women's Day in Hungary fell prey to people who want to discredit a movement. This is done in different ways. You can, for example, just be very silent about it - this is what happened to the history of the Hungarian women's movement. You just don't learn about it at school, even though there was a very important and internationally known women's movement in the early 1900s. You can also discredit it by questioning the motives of the people and this is also what often happens in Hungary - questioning the personal background of the women and men who are involved in women's rights activities. Another thing you can do, and this is what happened to International Women's Day, is, if it's too big or too important to simply remove it or be silent about it, then basically keep the surface and simply change the content."

What about the younger generation. How do they feel about what it means to be a woman?

"I believe that there is a problem in Hungary having missed the wave of feminism that was in Europe in the 1960s and 1970s. This is because feminism was considered to be a harmful and decadent western ideology. So, it did not reach our bloc and is completely missing from our History. Funnily enough, the younger generation now has what analysts usually call post-feminist values. These are values that were actually achieved by feminist activism but at the same time denying that it has anything to do with women's rights and women's equality."

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK Isn't it strange that International Women's Day is kind of rejected by many because of the socialist heritage, when after all the regime fought for emancipation but it was a wrong concept of emancipation?

"Well, there is a Hungarian saying that when you empty the bath tub of a baby you also empty the baby with it. This is what is happening here too. We are experiencing a conservative backlash as a result of people being fed up by the socialist regime as we experienced it for over fifty years and there is a tendency to despise everything even the achievements that were absolutely vital to create a more equal society."